Rotterdam 2023 Review: JORAM, A Manhunt Thriller With A Message

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
Rotterdam 2023 Review: JORAM, A Manhunt Thriller With A Message
Last Wednesday saw the world première of director Devashish Makhija's crime drama Joram at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, but audiences expecting a classic "cops and robbers" film were in for a surprise. For Makhija has a few things to get off his chest, and the background for his tale leaves an impact that is not easily erased.

In Joram, we follow Dasru, a construction day-worker in Mumbai. Originally from the Eastern region of Jharkhand, he labors to provide for his wife and three-months-old daughter. But the struggling family has a past, and when it suddenly catches up to them it leaves Dasru wanted by the police for a murder he didn't commit. On the run now for both the real murderers and the police, Dasru makes a desperate attempt to return to Jharkhand and settle his issues there. Hindering him is that he is carrying his daughter, the titular Joram, with him at all times.

IFFR-Joram-ext1.jpgMumbai police officer Ratnakar is put on the case, and after the incident escalates he starts a bitter manhunt for Dasru, all the way from the streets of Mumbai to the jungles of Jharkhand. But the more Ratnakar is exposed to Dasru's background, the more he finds out why Dasru did what he did. Ratnakar is determined to uphold justice but the relentless exploitation of the tribal locals by the mining companies in Jharkhand and the corruption within the police makes it hard for him to achieve his goal.

Joram is a thrilling film, beautifully shot, well acted, and an exciting manhunt mystery. But as you may have guessed by now, director Devashish Makhija isn't afraid to throw a lot of social commentary into the mix. It doesn't hurt the film at all but the background does crawl under your skin, and for days afterward you'll be thinking back on what you saw.

Manoj Bajpayee is fantastic as Dasru and effortlessly sells the man's desperation as a father trying to keep a baby alive and well, but he is also a believable strongman constantly managing to survive what is thrown at him. And boy, does fate have it in for Dasru in this film. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub plays the cop hot on Dasru's tail, who has the unenviable task of having to clean up all the messy situations the manhunt leaves in its wake.

In an S.S. Rajamouli film, these two would become friends and overthrow an evil empire together. But Devashish Makhija goes for realism, grim and bleak as that can be. People get punished here. Whether they're the right people is up for debate. Neither Dasru nor Ratnakar are entirely innocent of the situation they find themselves in, but both get the audiences' sympathy.

Speaking of audiences: the public in Rotterdam awarded Joram a rating of 4.4 out of 5, which is damn solid and put the film in the festival's top 20. So not only is it a good film, despite its gritty nature it's a crowd-pleaser as well.

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